Six important shifts for social media in 2012

It’s hard to believe we’re about to tick over to another calendar year. So, as usual, I got to thinking about the shifts I think companies need to make in their social media activities in the next year.

These aren’t necessarily trends that are already happening (although I’d like to say they are), but they’re certainly where my head is at and hopefully where others are, too.

Here are six shifts I hope to see in social media use by business in 2012.

Better objective-setting

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a slow maturation in the way companies develop their objectives for social media. My hope is that this will continue in 2012. That means fewer companies treating fan or follower growth or video views as goals, fewer made-up numbers and more focusing on business outcomes – sales, cost savings, customer/employee retention etc.

More effective measurement

As companies get better at setting objectives for social media, they’re going to need to get better at measuring against those new objectives. That means shifting focus away from  anecdotal evidence and simple outputs, and looking at indicators of the behaviour you’re looking to drive. It also means taking a closer look at the reporting of that measurement. See my recent post on five ways to improve your social media measurement for more on this.

This will be accompanied by increased realism over social media results. I’m currently reading a book that points to a multi-national company having 27,000 Twitter followers as an indication of social media success. Let’s face it, that’s unlikely to move the needle for lots of companies. As companies focus-in on reporting business objectives, we’ll see a continued shift away from high-fives over anecdotes and minor wins and a more hard-nosed focus on what really matters.

Improved Integration

Key to measuring more effectively, but with far, far broader effects, integration (and the breaking down of silos) will become even more key in 2012. The smart organizations have already figured out that social media works best when supported, and supporting, other forms of communications; look for more companies to mandate a silo-busting approach over the next year.

Strategic content planning

As organizations increasingly adopt the role of media companies in their online communications, watch for content strategy to receive greater focus in 2012. That means shifting from a “we have to fill these content slots” approach to one that carefully considers the objectives of each piece of proactive content and why it deserves its place in the content calendar. Sometimes it might be to drive community engagement; other times it might be to drive business conversion, and so on.

Increased search focus

An increased (and improved) search focus sits alongside more strategic planning of content. It means broadening the scope of how you target content, from point-in-time to point-in-lifecycle – thinking about what people are looking for at their stage in whatever process you’re targeting, and helping them through that and on to the next stage. That could be a stage of the purchase cycle, it could be a stage of the support process, or any number of others that you choose to focus on (thinking back to objectives).

Focusing on the less-shiny object

This is a big bucket of all sorts of increases, but my hope is that as companies move away from shiny-object snydrome in 2012 they start to take a more sophisticated approach to the less-shiny objects – policies, processes, listening, crisis plans etc – or, more formally put, to social business.

Social business

For me, this is an exciting time. I’m jazzed to see more mature use of social media help it to evolve into a more powerful tool for organizations – “life after likes“, as David Armano puts it. This is the cool stuff – the stuff that will move the needle and add real value for companies.

That makes the non-shiny objects the shiny ones for me.


Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.